Welcome to the world of comfort food! Today, we are going to delve into a beloved classic that brings warmth, flavor, and nostalgia to the table – Southern Mac and Cheese. As a professional chef, I am here to guide you through the steps of creating the most irresistible, gooey, and soul-satisfying mac and cheese you’ve ever tasted. Get ready to embark on a culinary journey that will transport you straight to the heart of the South, where every bite is a celebration of rich flavors and culinary tradition. So, put on your aprons, grab your cheese grater, and let’s get cooking!

Southern Mac and Cheese Recipe: Rich and Cheesy Comfort Food

Indulge in the ultimate comfort food with this Southern-style mac and cheese recipe. Made with creamy cheddar cheese, butter, and a touch of soul, this dish is sure to satisfy your cravings. Whether you’re hosting a family gathering or simply want a cozy night in, this recipe will become a staple on your dining table. Get ready to experience the pure joy of cheesy goodness with this classic Southern mac and cheese.


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional for a hint of spice)

General Information:

  • Making Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 30 minutes
  • Servings: 8


Step 1: Cook the macaroni

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Pro Tip: Be sure not to overcook the macaroni, as it will continue cooking in the oven.

Step 2: Prepare the cheese sauce

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour until smooth to create a roux.

Slowly pour in the milk while whisking continuously to avoid any lumps. Cook the mixture for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly until it thickens.

Add the shredded cheddar cheese gradually, stirring until it melts and the sauce becomes smooth. Season with salt, black pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper if desired. Mix well.

Step 3: Combine the macaroni and cheese sauce

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a large baking dish.

Add the cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce and stir until each noodle is coated evenly.

Transfer the mac and cheese mixture to the prepared baking dish, spreading it out evenly.

Pro Tip: For an extra layer of flavor, sprinkle additional shredded cheese on top before baking.

Step 4: Bake the mac and cheese

Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbling.

Remove from the oven and allow the mac and cheese to cool for a few minutes before serving. The sauce will thicken as it cools.

Step 5: Serve and enjoy

Scoop generous portions of the Southern mac and cheese onto plates or into bowls. Serve as a main dish or as a side to complement your favorite meats or vegetables.

This recipe pairs perfectly with crispy fried chicken or a refreshing green salad.

Step 6: Make it your own

Feel free to customize your mac and cheese with your favorite ingredients. You can add diced cooked bacon, sautéed onions, or chopped tomatoes for an extra burst of flavor.

Experiment with different types of cheeses, such as Gruyere or Monterey Jack, to create your own unique twist.

Step 7: Store and reheat

If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, place the mac and cheese in a microwave-safe dish and microwave until warmed through, or bake in the oven at 350°F (175°C) for 15-20 minutes.

Pro Tip: For a creamy consistency when reheating, add a splash of milk or cream to the mac and cheese before heating.

Indulge in the comforting flavors of homemade Southern mac and cheese. This classic recipe is perfect for any occasion and will bring warmth to your soul. Enjoy the rich and cheesy deliciousness that will have your taste buds dancing in joy. So gather your loved ones and savor every bite of this Southern-inspired delight.

southern mac and cheese recipe

Important Things to Keep in Mind When Making This Southern Mac and Cheese Recipe

Indulging in a warm and creamy plate of Southern mac and cheese is like wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket of comfort. But to achieve mac and cheese greatness, there are a few key things to keep in mind. From selecting the right cheeses to nailing the perfect texture, here are some essential tips to help you create a mac and cheese masterpiece that will have everyone begging for seconds.

1. Choose the Right Cheeses

When it comes to mac and cheese, the selection of cheese is crucial. Opt for a blend of cheeses that melt well and bring a variety of flavors to the dish. Cheddar is a classic choice that adds sharpness, while Gruyere brings a nutty richness. Combine these with a touch of creamy fontina or mozzarella to achieve the desired gooeyness. Experiment with other cheeses like Monterey Jack or Colby for added depth of flavor.

2. Cook the Pasta Just Right

The texture of the pasta plays a major role in the overall enjoyment of mac and cheese. Overcook it, and you’ll be left with a mushy mess. Undercook it, and the dish will lack the desired creaminess. Follow the instructions on the box but cook the pasta just shy of al dente, as it will continue to cook in the oven. This will ensure the pasta retains a bit of bite when combined with the cheese sauce.

3. Don’t Neglect the Seasonings

While the cheese takes center stage in mac and cheese, the seasonings provide the supporting cast that elevates the dish to new heights. Add a dash of ground mustard or a pinch of cayenne pepper to give the sauce a subtle kick. A sprinkle of paprika on top of the finished dish not only adds a pop of color but also enhances the overall flavor profile. Be sure to season generously with salt and pepper, tasting as you go to achieve the perfect balance.

4. Bake it to Perfection

One of the secrets to achieving the ultimate mac and cheese is to bake it in the oven. This step allows the sauce to thicken and the flavors to meld together. For a golden and crispy topping, sprinkle breadcrumbs mixed with melted butter or grated Parmesan cheese over the dish before baking. Keep an eye on it to avoid over-browning, and allow it to rest for a few minutes after removing it from the oven. This will help the flavors settle and make it easier to serve.

With these important tips in mind, you’re ready to embark on your mac and cheese adventure. Experiment with different cheese combinations, vary the seasonings to suit your taste, and don’t forget the joy of a crunchy breadcrumb topping. Whether you’re serving it as a comforting weeknight dinner or as a star dish at a holiday gathering, this Southern mac and cheese recipe will surely be a crowd-pleaser that leaves everyone longing for more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to our frequently asked questions section about southern mac and cheese recipes. Here, we address common queries and provide detailed answers to help you perfect this classic dish with a delightful Southern twist.

What makes a southern mac and cheese recipe unique?

A southern mac and cheese recipe is unique because it incorporates rich and flavorful ingredients like sharp cheddar cheese, butter, and cream. Additionally, it often features a crunchy breadcrumb or cracker topping for added texture and taste. The use of spices such as paprika or cayenne pepper gives it an extra kick of flavor that sets it apart from other mac and cheese recipes.

Furthermore, a southern mac and cheese often includes ingredients like bacon, diced tomatoes, or even jalapeños to add a touch of Southern flair and create a more robust and zesty flavor profile. All these elements combine to create a creamy, cheesy, and comforting dish that captures the essence of Southern cuisine.

Can I make a southern mac and cheese recipe without baking it?

Absolutely! While baking adds a deliciously golden and crispy crust to the top of the mac and cheese, you can still enjoy a southern-style mac and cheese without baking it. To achieve a stovetop version of this dish, simply prepare the macaroni and cheese as directed in the recipe, but skip the baking step.

The stovetop method results in a creamy and cheesy mac and cheese that is just as satisfying. However, if you prefer that crispy, browned top, you can sprinkle some extra cheese on the mac and cheese while it’s still in the pot and cover it with a lid for a few minutes until the cheese melts and the top gets slightly crispy. It may not be the exact same result as baking, but it will still be incredibly delicious.

Can I substitute a different type of cheese in a southern mac and cheese recipe?

While traditional southern mac and cheese recipes typically call for sharp cheddar cheese, you can definitely experiment and substitute other types of cheese based on your preference. Some popular alternatives include smoked gouda, gruyere, or even a combination of different cheeses for a more complex flavor profile.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that changing the type of cheese may alter the taste and texture of the final dish. Soft cheeses like mozzarella or ricotta might yield a creamier mac and cheese, while harder cheeses like Parmesan may result in a sharper flavor. Feel free to be creative and try different cheese combinations to find your perfect southern mac and cheese variation.

How can I make a southern mac and cheese recipe gluten-free?

If you need to make a southern mac and cheese recipe gluten-free, there are a few simple swaps you can make. First, substitute regular macaroni noodles with gluten-free macaroni noodles, which are widely available in grocery stores. Additionally, replace regular all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend or cornstarch to thicken the cheese sauce.

To ensure the entire dish remains gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free breadcrumbs or crushed gluten-free crackers for the topping. By making these simple substitutions, you can enjoy a delicious southern mac and cheese recipe that is safe for those with gluten sensitivities or dietary restrictions.

Can I make a southern mac and cheese recipe ahead of time?

Absolutely! One of the great things about a southern mac and cheese recipe is that you can make it ahead of time and simply reheat it when you’re ready to serve. To do this, prepare the mac and cheese as directed in the recipe, then transfer it to a baking dish or an airtight container.

Allow the dish to cool completely before covering it tightly and storing it in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to enjoy it, simply remove it from the refrigerator, let it come to room temperature while preheating the oven, and then bake it until heated through. This make-ahead option is perfect for dinner parties or gatherings, as it saves you time on the day of the event and still ensures a delicious and flavorful mac and cheese.


In conclusion, the southern mac and cheese recipe is a true testament to the richness and flavor of southern cuisine. With its creamy and velvety cheese sauce, perfectly cooked noodles, and a touch of traditional southern spices, this dish is a crowd-pleaser that will transport you to the heart of the South with every bite. Whether you’re serving it as a comforting side dish or a main course, this recipe is sure to satisfy even the most discerning palates. So, gather your ingredients, fire up your stove, and get ready to indulge in a truly delicious southern experience. Happy cooking!